History, Arts, Nightlife, and Dining

Boston's Financial District

Boston’s Financial District is one of those very few places where you can find heavily overlapping layers of history, arts, nightlife, dining, and culture. A weekend getaway to that corner of the city can be an exciting and enteraining experience.

Boston’s history doesn’t really center around Boston Common. Historical Boston actually centered around the old Customs House on King Street — that’s the location of the “Boston Massacre” where a taunting, snowball-hurling mob provoked the King’s regular soldiers to shoot into their midst — triggering the first fighting of the American Revolution.

The Faneuil Hall marketpalace and Quincy Market, right across the street from the Customs House are familiar to many Rhode Islanders, if only on a middle-school field trip to visit the “Birthplace of the American Revolution”. Of course the marketplace wasn’t the reason for the trip, but for kids, it’s a whole lot more memorable than a red brick building with a dinky gold dome.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace and its sister site, Quincy Market, boast 130 shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, including the varied & mouthwatering international “food colonnade” and the extraordinary, innovative Bull Market with its unique pushcart vendors-the pushcarts. The market is open every day, year round. The nationally-known Comedy Connection smack in the middle of Faneuil Hall Marketplace has been tagged by USA Today as “the best comedy club in the country,” headlining top performers such as Jay Leno, Rosie O’Donnell & Chris Rock.

But being somewhat older than the middle schoolers exploring the area, it’s simple to Wandering beyond the marketplace to find more night spots — predominatly Irish-themed taverns and nightclubs catering to the 20-something set. Dooley’s at 77 Broad Street is an excellent choice for live Irish music on the weekends and imported beers all week long. If you have the luck to visit Boston on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll find the pub was packed to the rafters with revelers, all of whom will know how to sing “No nay never…” to the band’s rendition of “The Wild Rover”.

It and most of the nightspots anywhere within walking distance to Faneuil Hall are generally busy on weekends, but there are plenty of choices.

On our visit to Boston’s financial district, we were invited to stay at the Langham Boston, a four-star hotel built in the old Federal Reserve building. This elegant property is a national architectural landmark. Converting it without changing the basic structure of the building meant that with 325 guest rooms, there are over 140 different floor plans — the room we stayed in had a living area with sweeping two-story windows and a sleeping room above.

The hotel’s two award-winning restaurants offer diners distinctive settings. Julien Restaurant is widely considered to be one of Boston’s most beautiful dining rooms, taking up the old Federal Reserve’s “Member’s Court”, maintaining the original brass railings and doorways, the original gilded coffered ceilings, and murals by N.C. Wyeth.

This 40-seat restaurant has been named one of the “Top 50 US Restaurants,” and well deserves the distinction. When we dined there, we experienced course after course of amazing dishes, each accompanied by a special choice of wine selected by the Sommelier . Chef de Cuisine Mark Sapienza presented us with lobster, pork tenderloin, foie gras with truffles, and wild salmon while Paul the wine steward started us off with a Krug Grand Cuvee champagne introduced us to Toasted Breath wine with one dish and

Sapienza, a Johnson and Wales grad, originally joined the hotel in 1998, and his arrival marked the first time in the property’s history that an American chef was selected to lead the French-Mediterranean kitchen. We chatted with him after dinner about his views on dining, how a kid raised on Italian food can create such phenomenal Contenental Cuisine, and how Rhode Island still has a special place in his heart. Just after our visit, he was promoted to Executive Chef. Over the years, he has received numerous accolades from colleagues and food critics: he was chosen among other celebrity chefs, such as Jacque Pepin, to prepare Julia Child’s Legion of Honor dinner at Julien in 2001, and he was honored with an invitation to present a dinner at The James Beard House in New York in 2000.

Café Fleuri offers a brasserie-style restaurant enhanced by lofty atrium ceilings. The Jazz Brunch brings such an extensive array of dishes that was beyond even my appetite to completly sample. We missed their signature Afternoon Tea and Chocolate buffet, perhaps on the next trip. We did, however, have an amazing dessert the with dinner — Linda was presented with a ball the size of a softball made of chocolate — when steaming hot chocolate sauce was drizzled over it, she discovered a ball of ice cream inside. My dessert was like a trip to the movies, with a sweet-salty clump of popcorn, a solid fizz of cola, and a chocolate cake so moist that it felt like eating a block of warm icing.

On Sunday morning, we explored Boston’s Holocaust Memorial and stood in amazement to see the glass towers engraved with numbers to represent the millions of people exterminated in Nazi death camps, wandered through the Financial District reading the historical markers on the buildings, and spent our day absorbed in archectecture and history.

We completly enjoyed our visit to the Financial District — it felt so much more comforatable and familiar to us than most of Boston, making a great getaway filled with entertainment, history, and food.

You can visit the Langham online at boston.langhamhotels.com

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